ICYMI: We take Yamaha’s new digital saxophone for a spin

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This week, our reviews mainly focused on unique audio devices, including a “magic radio” and a digital saxophone. James Trew tried out Rode’s Vlogger Kit and quickly became a fan of the microphone, light cube and windshield filter. He also experienced Teenage Engineering’s OB-4, a “magic radio” that can also record loops, play FM radio, and act as a turntable. Meanwhile, Jess Conditt has downed her saxophone skills to play on Yamaha’s YDS-150, a digital instrument she thinks is best suited for studio musicians. Also, Devindra Hardawar Studio showed Ghibli’s new film, Earwig and the Witch … and nothing nice to say about it. Ouch.

James Trew / Engadget

James Trew spent a while looking for something that could help prop up his phone and record an on-the-fly interview, and he found a great option in Rode’s Vlogger Kit. The kit includes a shotgun microphone, a phone grip, an LED light cube (with diffuser filters) and a tripod and is available in an Android, iOS or universal version. The universal kit does not allow you to monitor audio with wired headphones. However, it does come with a double cold shoe and Rycote Lyre shock mount, so a compromise has to be considered.

Upon testing, James found that the LED cube light could brighten indoor videos and was absolutely enough on its own to illuminate those who record a lot at night. He also said the tripod was fine and the ball joint made it easier to position, but he wished he could extend it too. Make no mistake, the microphone here is the star of the show – plus he was a huge fan of the furry windshield cover for the microphone, which looked hilarious but still worked quite well. All versions of the kit are priced at $ 149 and support USB-C connectivity for Android devices for the first time.

Yamaha YDS-150


It’s been a while since Jess Conditt played the saxophone on a regular basis, but it was a game to test out Yamaha’s YDS-150 – a digital saxophone with a matte black body, pearlescent buttons, and a brass finish on the bell. The YDS-150 is the closest in size and shape to a soprano saxophone and is easy to hold. It comes with a slim carrying bag that can be hung over the shoulder like a yoga mat. It also uses four AAA batteries or a micro USB power cable. The latter allows connection to a loudspeaker or headphones (via a stereo mini cable) or receipt of inputs via Bluetooth from a phone, tablet or computer.

There is also the YDS Controller app that allows Jess to edit, enter and save custom channels or any of the 73 preprogrammed voices for soprano, alto, tenor-baritone or non-saxophone sounds. In addition, the YDS-150 has permanent settings for mood, key reaction, reverb type as well as breath pressure resistance and reaction. Yamaha thought of it as a studio instrument, and Jess agreed that its variety of voices and styles make it ideal for this use (although it is not a good substitute for an acoustic soprano, alto, tenor, or bari saxophone). It’s pretty expensive at $ 1,078, but Jess thought it was worth the price because of its features and beautiful design.

Youth technology OB-4

James Trew / Engadget

James Trew can’t explain exactly what the OB-4 is, and neither can the Teenage Engineering team. It comes closest as a “media instrument” or “magical radio” with an angular, futuristic yet retro design. Two speakers sit at the front, while the carrying handle stows the FM antenna cable and the speaker stand. There is also a motorized “tape” wheel at the top that allows you to fast-forward and rewind and that acts like a small turntable. The volume control also syncs with the volume of your source device (when connected via 3.5mm or bluetooth) and can also act as a speed / pitch control.

James concluded that the OB-4 was essentially the weirdest DJ tool in the world – and he certainly had a good time experimenting with the various functions of the speaker, especially the loop function. The OB-4 can also rewind live radio, play things in reverse order, or scroll through recordings. And there’s a “disk” mode that Teenage Engineering calls a place for experimental functions like a metronome or a karma mode with soothing sounds.

James liked both the sound quality and the volume of the speakers. However, the companion app only offers volume control, transport control, or input selection. And there’s no line-out, so you can’t record your work or feed it to another device. While the $ 600 price tag is pretty high, James is still a fan and excited about what else he can do.

Studio Ghibli’s Earwig and the Witch is a disappointing watch

Earwig and the witch

Earwig and the GKIDS witch

Devindra Hardawar made no problem when it came to reviewing Goro Miyazaki’s catchy tune and the animated film Witch CG. He called it an insult and a creative failure on any level. The film, an adaptation of a novel by Dianna Wynne Jones, revolves around a girl in an orphanage who is adopted by a witch and a warlock and who learns about her magical powers. Despite the starting material, Devindra found the narrative incomplete and the characters improbable.

As the first CG film by Studio Ghibli, Earwig tries to branch out into a different form of animation. But Devindra said the magic of a typical Ghibli movie was missing on almost every level, including the music of Satoshi Takebe, which he thought was unforgettable. He wasn’t a fan of CG character animation either, which he found stiff and lifeless, though the backgrounds were more detailed and lush than they were first hand-drawn. Devindra said the only way for Ghibli to accept CG in the future is to be fully immersed in larger, cinematic productions in the Pixar sense.

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